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REEVALUATING WHERE WE STAND: A COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY OF AMERICA'S FAMILY JUSTICE SYSTEMS

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bbabb@ubalt.edu

Abstract

The call for court reform remains critical in the face of the growing complexity of burgeoning family law cases nationwide. Many states have restructured their court systems using the unified family court model, resolving legal, personal, emotional, and social disputes with the aim of improving the well-being of families and children. Other states utilize the traditional approach, resulting in cases being handled in a fragmented, time-consuming and expensive manner. In this article, Professor Barbara A. Babb presents the results of her nationwide survey regarding how each state handles family law matters. The survey is a follow-up to her comprehensive 1998 survey and her 2002 survey update. The results of the recent analysis reveal that a total of thirty-eight states now have either statewide family courts, family courts in selected areas of the state, or pilot or planned family courts, representing seventy-five percent of states. The number of states without a specialized or separate system to handle family law matters has decreased from seventeen states in 1998 to thirteen in 2006. These changes are significant when one considers the complexities involved in court reform. The need for court reform remains an urgent one, as family law cases occupy a significant percentage of court dockets across the country. Families and children deserve a court system where justice is effective and efficient and where their legal, personal, emotional, and social needs are resolved in a therapeutic and holistic manner.

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